In Which I Profess My Love For British Library Crime Classics

I never cared about what my books looked like. As long as they held together so I could read them I was happy. Of course, there were some covers that irritated me. My childhood copy of Anne of Green Gables has the most abysmal picture of Anne on the front. It is so bad that I am convinced that whoever picked it never read the book since it bears absolutely no resemblance to the Anne in my head. But the thing is, I never bothered to replace it even though I didn't like it. It was a serviceable copy so, why bother? There were prettier copies out there but I had the story I loved and that was what mattered.

Then I entered the world of blogging and Bookstagram and I encountered a world where your book had to look good as well as be a good story. I had very mixed feelings about that. So many of my beloved books just are not pretty. They are secondhand copies I have picked up over the years. I didn't want to replace them for shiny, new editions with beautiful covers because it felt a bit like discarding old friends. So I didn't. A lot of my books are not particularly photogenic but they are well loved. (I feel like there is a lesson in there somewhere.)  However, that does not prevent me from noticing all the beautiful editions I see on various blogs I read. And yes, sometimes I get sucked into buying them.

This is a very long-winded way of saying that I love the covers of the British Library Crime Classics.





Aren't they gorgeous? Now, I have to say, I really enjoy the stories too. I love books from the golden age of crime writing and so many of these are books that would just be impossible to find otherwise. But, for just about the first time in my life, I find myself wanting to buy all the books because they are so pretty. I would happily decorate my house in posters made from these prints. Or amass a collection of tote bags with these prints decorating them. Or maybe mugs....

Because I do enjoy the stories as well as the covers I have been thrilled to be able to read a few of the British Library Crime Classics through NetGalley. Now, I am not as thrilled as I would be to read them in physical form instead of on my Kindle but I will take what I can get.

 I recently read The Cheltenham Square Murder* by John Bude. The peace and tranquility of the square are disturbed when one of the residents is murdered with an arrow. There are plenty of suspects, plenty of motives, and even plenty of archers. Thank goodness, there is also Superintendent Meredith to work his way through all the extraneous clues and arrive at the proper solution. I enjoyed this. The characters were quirky and interesting, there was a bit of humor woven in, and I learned a bit about archery. Did you know that arrows were measured in shillings?

Bryan laughed:  "Here! We're talking at cross purposes.  Four and ninepence is the weight of the arrow.You see, they're weighed up against shillings. An ordinary shilling being the unit of measurement. Some people prefer a lighter arrow--say a four-shilling. This fellow, on the other hand, seems to have used the same weight arrow as I do myself. If you want to make sure about that point, I suggest you borrow a balance and weight the arrow against four shillings and ninepence. In silver, of course!

Isn't that a fascinating fact to have come across? It is one reason I so enjoy these old mysteries. You never know what you will learn. Not that I ever expect to be able to make use of these facts--unless, of course, someone conveniently gets murdered with an arrow in my neighborhood.

I also read Death of a Busybody* by George Bellairs. Miss Tither is very unpopular in her village because of her propensity for discovering everyone's secret sins, confronting them with the error of their ways, and exhorting them to repent. Obviously, she is going to end up dead. She meets her end in the Vicar's cesspool. It is up to Inspector Littlejohn to track down her murderer. This was a predictable but enjoyable book. I knew who did it from pretty much the moment the character was introduced but that did not detract from my enjoyment of the rest of the book. Bellairs also had some very nice descriptions of the British countryside.

I enjoyed both these books but I wish they were on my bookshelves instead of on my Kindle. I can't quite justify buying them for the covers since I already have read them but I am sure I will buy many others of the British Library Crime Classics. This will be partly for the beautiful covers and partly for the enjoyable stories they contain.


*I received this book through NetGalley but my opinions of covers and stories are all my own.

10 comments

  1. You & me both! I'd pick posters first, but I wouldn't say no to a tote bag.

    My library is starting to have some of these on the shelves. I like reading them first, before buying, because I have been disappointed in a couple of the stories.

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    1. Some are definitely better than others. I am not always crazy about the ones that are mainly an exercise in logistics. I like the characters and the story.

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  2. I forgot to add that I'd be interested to compare Anne of Green Gables copies. My covers have somebody who looks like a 1970s girl on them. And with straight brown hair. I could have modeled for them, I had clothes just like what that so-called Anne is wearing. But my grandmother gave them to me and I would never trade them in.

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    1. I have two harcovers of Anne of Green Gables and Anne's House of Dreams. Both are greenish-grey with a circular picture of a 1970s type girl. Her hair is vaguely red and straight. The rest are Bantam Books paperbacks from the 1970s. In one Anne is wearing a pink dress which always irritated me because she didn't think she could wear pink. I love them all though because I have had them for eons.

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  3. I prefer my books to be pristine, with an uncracked spine but with old secondhand books you just have to take what you can get as often they're difficult to come by. With a few of the British Crime Classics that I've read the best part has been the cover! I have some repro 1930s Railway posters in my house, similar sort of artwork and easy to buy online. As for Ann of Green Gables, I love the books, identified with her as I have red hair, but I never did want to dye it.

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    1. I spent my childhood wanting red hair because of Anne.

      Now I am going to have to research 1930s railway posters online. I feel like this could be dangerous for my budget!

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  4. I really like cozy crime books, but haven't actually read any of these although I think they'd be right up my alley! I definitely the covers add to the charm in this case. Like you, I have always bought cheap secondhand books. When I moved over here I had to give most of them away, and it was so hard! I have used it as an excuse to buy pretty copies, though. :)

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    1. Giving away books must have been hard. At least you can buy new ones now. I think you would like the British Library Crime Classics. Some are better than others but I have enjoyed them all so far.

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  5. I think I must have the same edition of Anne of Green Gables (Grosset & Dunlap), but I like them (I have nearly a complete set). The low point for me is a hideous mass market paperback edition of Austen's Emma. It was purchased cheaply for a class and never upgraded. Those crime classics are beauts though, and I definitely appreciate a nice edition/cover. I love the green Viragos and hate any movie tie-ins.

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    1. Oh, yes! I love the green Viragos too. I must admit to a sneaking desire to get all matching, beautiful editions of Austen's novels. There are just so many gorgeous ones. How do I ever choose?

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